Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a series of conversations with parents, friends, ministry colleagues and fellow Christians that have deepened my appreciation for the extent to which my family and I have been blessed by the teaching, relationships and opportunities to serve we’ve experienced through our church. Like most readers of this blog, life in 2016 brought far more challenges than I would have liked. My faith provides me with a way to make sense of the daily hurts and frustrations of life and hope that all my troubles are temporary.
This past week, I had the best time I’ve had in months during a brainstorming day with some fellow Christians interested in caring for kids and families, kicking around ideas for how we might share our wisdom, experience and resources to advance the Gospel. It makes me happy to think about other families having a strong faith foundation when the winds and waves of contemporary life come crashing against the shore.
In that context, I’d like to share the priorities our team has felt called to pursue during the coming year. Our five principal areas of focus in 2017 are to:
- Expand ministry training
- Grow Key for Families
- Offer resources, supports to churches to promote mental health inclusion
- Increase collaboration with other like-minded ministries and organizations
- Build a sustainable organization
Training/Education: We’re looking at ways of expanding the availability of ministry training in 2017. We’ll have monthly video trainings, accompanied by opportunities for interactive discussion. We’ll continue to host our disability ministry video roundtable at 12:00 Eastern on the third Wednesday of each month. We’re interested in getting out to more ministry conferences throughout the country. We continue to offer free consultation to churches and church leaders interested in ministry with kids with disabilities and their families, and hope to provide more support to churches in the year ahead.
We’ll be introducing several monthly contributors to this blog, which seeks to resource pastors, church leaders and volunteers for ministry with kids with disabilities and their families.
Barb Dittrich will be sharing practical ideas for churches seeking to provide support to families of children with all types of disabilities.
Colleen Swindoll-Thompson will be speaking into the ways churches can more effectively minister with kids and families affected by mental illness and/or trauma.
Cindi Ferrini will be sharing ideas for how churches might offer support to kids and families through the transition to adulthood.
Growing Key for Families. We launched our private, online communities for families this past spring. We want to help families impacted by disability find churches prepared to embrace and include them in the full range of activities that help kids and adults to come to know Jesus and grow in faith in Jesus. We hope to offer families an opportunity to experience caring and community online.We’ll have members-only book and Bible studies and educational events.
Know a family affected by disability in need of a church or Christian community? Share this link with them.
Mental Health Inclusion: We’re going to offering resources and supports to churches specifically for outreach to and inclusion of families of children and teens with mental illness or trauma. We’ll be putting together a video series on mental health inclusion ministry that will launch in the Fall of 2017. We’ll be organizing an invitation-only Facebook group for mental health ministry leaders that will be launching in the next thirty days. And this author hopes to be out on the road with increasing frequency in anticipation of the scheduled launch of our book on mental health inclusion on February 1, 2018.
Promoting collaboration among like-minded ministries: We can maximize the impact of our efforts through partnering with other organizations called to help the church become more inclusive of persons with disabilities and their families. We’re just beginning to imagine what an online conference in the Fall to promote ministry collaboration might look like. Look for us to do more in 2017 to call attention to great ideas and resources from other like-minded ministries.
Building a sustainable ministry organization: As our small organization grows larger, we need to create the systems and support to sustain our work.
I’d like to extend a big thank you to all the new donors who contributed to our Annual Fund and online campaigns this past Christmas season. While we fell significantly short of covering our operating costs last year, the ministry needs we’re called to meet will require an even larger budget in 2017. Our entire team was very encouraged by the influx of new supporters who recognized the need for the ministry we offer and generously supported us through their prayers, encouragement and financial contributions in 2016. We’ll need to generate a little under $7,000/month in financial support to cover our expenses in 2017. Anything you can do to help is much appreciated!
I have one additional request. I’d appreciate it if you’d take the time to pray for me and the other members of our ministry team.
You may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything new to the blog for the last few weeks. I was working very hard over the holidays to complete the first draft of our book on mental health inclusion to the publishers by the due date in early January.
This year was by far and away the most challenging one I’ve experienced in our practice. I seek to honor God by providing a truly excellent service to the families who seek help through our practice. I’ve found myself needing to expend more mental effort and energy with each passing year to sustain the level of excellence with which I’m comfortable. I’ve never felt as mentally depleted as I’ve felt over the last few months. I’ve been too tired for a couple of years to go to a Bible Study or a small group or to make or maintain friendships.
I’d ask that God would make available a way for me to grow in my own faith this year, providing me with the mental reserves to be available to Him and to my family. That God would make available a way to serve kids and families with excellence and provide sufficient margin so that finances don’t become a distraction. That he’d help me to prioritize my time and provide me with the mental capacity to care for my family and myself. That he’d protect and provide for the members of our ministry team and connect us with like-minded individuals and organizations who might make use of our resources for growing the Kingdom.
Thanks for your prayers and encouragement! Let’s do this.